Rays, Mosaic Company Drop Naming-Rights Pursuit 2/17/10

PORT CHARLOTTE – The Rays and the Mosaic Company have decided to not pursue their naming rights agreement for the Charlotte Sports Park for an indefinite period.

“While we believe this naming rights deal presents many benefits to both the Rays and the entire community, neither the Rays nor Mosaic wants it to distract the team and fans from their focus on baseball,” Rays senior vice president Mark Fernandez said Wednesday in a team release.

The Rays and phosphate company announced their 15-year partnership for the naming rights on Feb. 3, but asked the Charlotte County Commission to not vote on the matter during last week’s commission meeting.

David Townsend, Mosaic’s assistant vice president of public affairs, said at the time both sides wanted to regroup before subjecting the deal to the vote of the commission, which must approve any naming rights agreement for the Rays spring training facility.

On Wednesday, both sides announced they would defer pursuit of the agreement until at least the end of spring training, maybe longer.

The deal, which would pay Charlotte County $77,250 this year and more than $1.4 million over the life of the agreement, was met with opposition from several environmentalist groups and at least one member of the Charlotte County Commission.

“Community investment is a core element of Mosaic’s culture and our principal reason for entering into the naming rights agreement with the Rays,” Townsend said in the same release. “We remain committed to continuing and building upon our history of support to communities throughout our operating area.”

The county has fought Mosaic over mining in the Peace River and Charlotte Harbor watersheds during the past decade. The disputes went to court four times, with the courts ruling in Mosaic’s favor in each case.

Mosaic’s name was found throughout the stadium last spring, including on top of the dugouts. Townsend said his company and the Rays will remain partners and Mosaic’s logo will still appear inside the stadium.

By ROGER MOONEY | The Tampa Tribune